3 years ago

A small-molecule inhibitor of SMAD3 attenuates resistance to anti-HER2 drugs in HER2-positive breast cancer cells

Masafumi Shimoda, Ako Ohara, Atsushi Shimomura, Naofumi Kagara, Yoko Chihara, Kenzo Shimazu, Yasuto Naoi, Jun-ichiro Ikeda, Seung Jin Kim, Tomonori Tanei, Ami Hori, Shinzaburo Noguchi



Resistance against anti-HER2 drugs in HER2-positive breast cancer is a major obstacle to the improving prognosis. Transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) is a cytokine involved in the acquisition of more malignant phenotypes through epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and cancer stem cell (CSC) properties. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of TGFβ and its downstream SMAD pathway on resistance to anti-HER2 drugs.


HER2-positive breast cancer cell lines were stimulated with TGFβ for 14 days. Then, the sensitivity to trastuzumab and lapatinib and the expression levels of various EMT and CSC markers were examined. The correlation of nuclear SMAD3 expression in untreated breast tumor tissues with trastuzumab efficacy in neoadjuvant settings was examined. The effect of a small-molecule inhibitor of SMAD3 (SIS3) on resistance to anti-HER2 drugs was explored.


We found that continuous activation of the TGFβ-SMAD3 pathway induced resistance to anti-HER2 drugs and CSC traits in HER2-positive breast cancer cells. The induction of drug resistance by TGFβ required strong activation of SMAD3. In fact, activated SMAD3 regulated multiple genes that harbor SMAD-binding elements and are involved in trastuzumab resistance. Nuclear SMAD3 expression in tumor tissue was inversely correlated with sensitivity to neoadjuvant treatment with trastuzumab. SIS3 not only prevented the acquisition of resistance to anti-HER2 drugs but also restored trastuzumab sensitivity in trastuzumab-resistant cells.


This study indicates that the TGFβ-SMAD3 pathway plays an important role in the induction and maintenance of resistance to anti-HER2 drugs. Thus, SMAD3 is a potential therapeutic target that can inhibit resistance and restore sensitivity to anti-HER2 drugs.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10549-017-4382-6

DOI: 10.1007/s10549-017-4382-6

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